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The Department of Allied Health Sciences’ hard work in advancing Interprofessional Education and Practice (IPEP) has resulted in its selection for the 2021 Association of Schools Advancing Health Professions (ASAHP) Award for Institutional Excellence and Innovation in Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Health Care.

A History of Interprofessional Collaboration

The importance of teamwork cannot be understated in healthcare. Allied Health professionals have been on the forefront of interprofessional education and practice for decades, as their specialties are designed to intersect with other disciplines to advance health. Therefore, when the Office of Interprofessional Education and Practice (OIPEP) was established in 2018 by Provost Bob Blouin, it was evident that the Department of Allied Health (DAHS) should be a founding partner.

“DAHS is integral to OIPEP due to its distinctive history in advancing IPE. Having members of the department share their expertise with OIPEP partner schools outside of allied health allows for other professions to learn from, with, and about each other and provides opportunities to highlight the amazing things that allied health professionals do every day,” says Meg Zomorodi, Assistant Provost and Director for OIPEP.

IPEP efforts within DAHS are led by Judy Schmidt, Ed.D., CRC, LCMHCA. Schmidt is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling within DAHS and serves as Director of DAHS Interprofessional Education and Practice for OIPEP.

“Many faculty, staff and students in our department have worked tirelessly to build our IPE program and are appreciative of this recognition,” said Schmidt. “Moving forward, we will focus on expanding our efforts to train health profession leaders in best practices of interprofessional education and collaborative practice to ensure the highest quality of care in communities across North Carolina.” 

Recent and Ongoing IPEP Activities

Each of the seven divisions within DAHS engages in a range of interprofessional activities across programs, schools and community settings and provides internal and external IPEP opportunities through academic, clinical and service-learning experiences. DAHS students actively participate outside of DAHS through OIPEP core activities and through the newly launched IPEP Distinguished Scholars program. These experiences offer students structured activities to engage with other health disciplines that cross over didactic and practice opportunities, while also providing a foundation for collaboration. Recent and ongoing IPEP activities include:

  • Heels Prep – an interdisciplinary collaboration among DAHS divisions, Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling (CRMH) and Occupational Therapy (OT), to provide a summer program to support young adults with intellectual disabilities transitioning to adulthood.
  • Hosting an IPE Book Club for incoming students in all divisions to discuss “Blind Spot.” Over 180 students participated along with faculty and AHIPS members.
  • Forthcoming launch of the inaugural RAM (Remote Area Medical) clinic in the state will take place in Wilkesboro, NC in 2022. The future funding of RAM will be provided by the Leonard G. Herring Family Foundation and will allow students and faculty from multiple schools and programs to offer free screening and medical services to eligible constituents in the rural county.
  • DAHS has formed a strong partnership with NC Area Health Education Centers (NC AHEC) and have created more specific interprofessional continuing education experiences for clinical preceptors.
  • DAHS has been a founding partner in the Rural Interprofessional Health Initiative, in which over 150 interprofessional students have provided health care and completed quality improvement projects in nine rural counties across North Carolina.
  • DAHS has been a part of the CLARION National Case Competition. In 2019, the team placed 2nd and DAHS has had representation every year.
  • DAHS has participated in the Interprofessional Geriatrics Event since its creation in 2012. What began as a partnership between OT, PT, pharmacy, and public health, has now expanded to all OIPEP health professions, growing to over 300 student participants.

“Over the past five years we have continued to increase our dedication to expanding and building interprofessional education and practice programs that ensure all of our students are well prepared for collaborative practice upon graduation,” said Dr. Stephen Hooper, Associate Dean of Medicine and Chair of the Department of Allied Health Sciences. “We’re confident our efforts will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of delivery systems to promote team-based, patient/family centered health care, and ultimately the quality of life of our patients, clients and consumers.”

DAHS has seen significant growth in its IPEP efforts, and the award is a testament to progress made to build an innovative and sustainable model to advance IPEP within the department, university and greater community.

Campus-Wide IPEP Efforts During Pandemic Earn National Recognition

The ability to elevate the work of DAHS through its partnership with OIPEP became more evident at the beginning of the pandemic. DAHS leadership have collaborated with OIPEP partner schools to come together weekly to discuss student support during the pandemic. DAHS has developed innovative ways to assist during the pandemic, including PT students assisting with mobility during the vaccine effort, CLS students helping with COVID-19 testing, and a range of students volunteering to be a part of OIPEP’s Carolina Covid Student Services Corps.

As a result of these efforts, OIPEP was one of five winners of the 2021 George Thibault Award in September, which celebrates exemplary interprofessional collaboration and recognizes those who are thinking and acting differently where practice and education connect in health systems.

Drs. Schmidt and Hooper were recognized at the 2021 ASAHP Annual Conference on October 20, 2021. They have been invited to present their work at the 2022 ASAHP Annual Conference in Long Beach, California on October 19-21, 2022.